China: May 2, 2003

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China announced that 70 sailors had died in an accident aboard an eight year old Ming class diesel-electric sub (No. 361). The cause was probably a combination of poor construction (the diesel engine kept operating as the sub prepared to dive, sucking out all the oxygen) and poor crew training (no one detected a problem beforehand or dealt with it quickly enough when it happened.) These two problems, poor equipment and inadequate training and leadership, have been characteristic of the Chinese navy for over a century. China is trying to overcome these dual curses by purchasing more modern warships, and warship building technology, from Russia, as well as spending more on training. The disaster on sub 361, coupled with the economic crises caused by the SARS outbreak, may turn out to be a major setback for naval modernization.

 

 

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